All that sparkles is not gold……but silver will do nicely!

After too many years to count (or at least mention in public), it was finally NIMRA’s turn to host the Junior Home International, which combines with the British & Irish U17 & U20 Mountain Running Championships

Greenhill YMCA was the destination, with all five nations at last able to attend. Some ‘bubbling’ of course was still needed but it was great to welcome our visitors  to Newcastle, and our beautiful Mournes.

The Mourne weather seemed to think so too, with the mist and murk of the trial two weeks previously a distant memory.

After arrivals, by boat, bus, car and plane on Friday, it was an early start on Saturday for the race, with teams bused to Happy Valley and a field that had taken on something of a festival feel.

The four races went of in waves, 15 mins apart, to ensure no overlap, and a 20 min gap for the U20 males coming last, just to be sure.

Thankfully electronic timing by James Carr made this system look effortless and made for a wonderful spectator experience.

For the course designer and marker Alan Magee, the site of spectators lining the Meelbeg ridge, passed by speeding runners to the finish was a treat.

Having looked at previous ‘Meels’ records, an estimated fastest time of the day of 23 mins was suggested. When Jess Bailey of England set a winning time, in the first race of 24:14, it became clear that 23 mins was likely to be surpassed as the day went on.

In the Junior Home International Competition, Eimear McCarroll of Finn Valley AC was the 1st home for N.I. & Ulster in 8th place, Lucy Cheatley of North Down AC in 12th, Ciara Savage of Newcastle AC in 15th and Mac Eager also of North Down in 17th place. This was Lucy and Mac’s first International Mountain running appearance. They managed to secure 4th in the Team competition.

Next up were the U17 Males, with a winning time of an astonishing 21:02 by Charlie Allmond of England. Despite being U17, this was to be the 3rd fastest time of the day……forget 23 mins!

N.I.& Ulster had Ben Acheson of North Down AC running strongly in the first half of the race in his debut appearance, but he sadly had to drop out after spraining his ankle trying to dodge round a Scottish athlete in front. Joshua Muckian of Slieve Gullion Runners was 1st home for N.I.& Ulster in 15th place, with Ethan McMullan and Oliver Robinson following up in 18th & 19th.

The U20 Female race started of in a rush, with our Nuala Bose taking a stumble, with 3 or 4 athletes jumping over her in the heat of the race. Despite her fall, Nuala bounced up, fighting her way back through the crowd to the front runners. Nuala took the lead through both sections of the climb, maintaining it until the end of the rocky section at the start of the descent. From here she battled it out for the lead until a fall in the bog half way down the descent placed her in 3rd, the position she maintained to the finish – some running in only her second mountain race. Her team mate Sarah was 8th, and Ella Quinn of Omagh Harriers was 10th. Rebecca Magee is a confident descender and put it to good use, gaining almost a min on Ella, but to no avail, with Ella able to hold her off by 5 seconds – what a fantastic finish, by the two girls that have raced in Italy, Wales and Ireland together over the years.

However the best outcome from their battle was still to be revealed, when they discovered that they had secured silver by 1 point… turned out that Rebecca had passed the final Scottish scoring athlete, securing the point that made the difference!

Finally, it was the U20 boys turn, with Matthew Knowles of England setting the fastest time of the day in 20:47.

Tom Crudgington fresh from a stunning run at Donard, managed to place 3rd at the summit, getting passed on the descent, but holding on for a fantastic 4th at the finish. Oisin Toye of Finn Valley in his Mountain running debut, achieved a 9th, with Ryan of Annadale Striders coming 12th and Diarmait Keogh also of Finn Valley coming 14th. Enough to secure a fantastic Bronze in the U20 Competition.

 Results Summary –

U20 Female Individual Bronze – Nuala Bose (Finn Valley AC, coach John Rogan)

U20 Female Team Silver

U20 Male Team Bronze

A huge thank you to all the marshalls, 1st aiders, photographers (Marguerite Robinson, Declan Rice and Karen Magee) and helpers throughout the weekend, for making it such a fantastic event.

….and to the team managers, Bashir Hussain, John Rogan, Sharon Bradley, with assistance from Lynda Martin and Catherine McIntosh.

Martin McMullan, not just for his race directing but also all the work and planning that he put in, in the weeks leading up to the event, that made it such a slick operation.

Alan Magee, for course marking, post making, planning and ordering of equipment, coupled with Karen and he staying on course through Friday night to provide some security to boot.

James Carr for smooth and efficient race timing.

Deon McNeilly for the Prize giving.

Greenhill YMCA, particularly the Chef Ryan, Newcastle Coach Hire and NCC – Newcastle Community Cinema.

Paul Tierney and Dave McFarlane for the use of their fantastic film, The Wainwrights.

…..and finally, Lauren Magee for the excellent event t-shirt design!

Our Main event sponsor was Whites, with support also from The Bike Shack, Dale Farm and River Rock  – we are really gratefully for your support towards these young athletes!

Photos can be found here

Results can be found here

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